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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Cochlear Implant Process

Our goal first--and always--is the best interest of your child. We are experts in determining if a cochlear implant is the best choice or if another alternative would serve your child better. To make this determination, we thoroughly evaluate your child’s health and hearing.

Evaluation

Initial evaluation is done on an outpatient basis. It is noninvasive and usually takes several hours.

The medical evaluation is accomplished with the use of advanced imaging technology, which enables our surgeons to view and evaluate the structure of your child’s inner ears. The two types of imaging technologies typically used for this assessment are MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography).

Conducted by our team of audiologists, the hearing evaluation is multifaceted. Your child undergoes a series of tests individually tailored to him/her: every child is different. Types of assessments used during a hearing evaluation include the following:

  • Behavioral audiometric evaluation, with and without hearing aids
  • Speech perception testing to determine the functional benefit of hearing aids
  • Immitance measurements to determine if the child has or may have a tendency toward middle ear fluid
  • Electrophysiologic testing to gather information about inner ear and auditory nerve function

Parents are asked to complete questionnaires to help determine functional hearing and hearing aid benefit.

Speech and language evaluation and educational plan assessment are ongoing components of the process involved in helping your child attain appropriate developmental levels.

Surgery

If cochlear implant is deemed the best option for your child by the multidisciplinary team (which includes you), the next step is to schedule surgery. The surgery is a routine, outpatient procedure, which usually takes one to three hours. It involves a small incision, which allows the surgeon to properly place the implant within the inner ear.

At the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, you may wait in the operating room until the anesthesia takes effect and your child is asleep--one of many extra steps the cochlear implant team takes to assure the best experience for your child and for you. For your comfort, we can also arrange an overnight stay for your child and family.

Activation

Three to four weeks after surgery, your child returns to have the implanted device activated. This involves linking the implanted internal receiver to the external speech processor. The audiologist creates the initial MAP or program, which allows your child to hear sound for the first time with the cochlear implant.

This is a truly momentous occasion--the moment at which your child moves from a world of silence into a world of sound.

Surgeon and staff celebrate this major turning point in your child’s life with you at a "Hearing Birthday" party--a party that marks a totally new beginning for your child and family.

After Activation

Once the cochlear implant is activated, your child returns to the multidisciplinary team for check-ups and therapy on a regular basis. Typically there are evaluations at the two-week, one-month, three-month, six-month, and nine-month marks. At each evaluation, your child’s speech processor is remapped, and additional testing is provided as needed. Each child hears differently, and audiologists excel at matching programs to each child’s unique style of hearing.

After the first year, audiograms and speech perception tests are given every six months for two to three years, after which they are given annually. Programming is done at the same intervals, and speech and language evaluation is done once a year. If necessary, your child may require more frequent follow-up visits.

If you live far away and/or it is not convenient for you to come here on a regular basis, we work with you to find healthcare professionals in your area who can provide care that is both appropriate and convenient.

Support Team

We have a support team you can join if your child has a cochlear implant here. The team will put you in touch with other families whose children have also received cochlear implants at Comer Children’s as well as with the professionals dedicated to helping you and your child.